The Seattle Mariners, General Manager Jerry Dipoto, Vice President of Player Personnel Tom Allison, Director of Amateur Scouting Tom McNamara and the rest of the newly minted front office made their first selection in the 2016 MLB Draft this afternoon, and it was a surprisingly highly regarded one, as they took advantage of some other teams shuffling early to maximize their draft spending and selected Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis of at No. 11 overall.
Lewis, voted as the College Player of the Year and first-team All-America by Baseball America, was the two-time Southern Conference Player of the Year as Mercer's centerfielder, hitting 33 doubles and 37 home runs in the past two seasons for the Bears, ending his collegiate career with a .364/.462/.651 slash in 538 plate appearances. The 6-foot-4, 210 pound 20 year old was listed at number four in BA's Top-500 and was pretty consistently among the first seven or so names off of the board in nearly every mock draft leading up to today, and even though there is some swing-and-miss to his game, the Mariners can't help but feel like they really scored by having him still available at 11th overall.
"We thought he was going to be picked before us,” said McNamara. “We’re very excited that he made it to us. He’s a 6-foot-4, middle-of-the-order potential bat that had a big year at Mercer University this year. He’s a good athlete who we believe has a lot of potential.”
Seattle didn’t have a 1st round pick in 2015, giving up that pick when they signed Nelson Cruz to a free agent contract, and while McNamara was retained by Dipoto and generally gets very favorable reviews for his work in the Draft, Seattle’s track records with their top picks hasn’t been the best in recent years.
Seattle’s last 10 years of first round picks:
2016 1.11 Kyle Lewis
2015 NO FIRST ROUND PICK
2014 1.6 Alex Jackson (in Low-A)
2013 1.12 D.J. Peterson (in Double-A)
2012 1.3 Mike Zunino (in Triple-A)
2011 1.2 Danny Hultzen (injury rehab)
2010 1.43 Taijuan Walker (with Mariners)
2009 1.33 Steven Baron (in Double-A)
2009 1.27 Nick Franklin (With Rays)
2009 1.2 Dustin Ackley (with Yankees)
2008 1.20 Josh Fields (with Astros)
2007 1.52 Matt Mangini (out of baseball)
2007 1.11 Philippe Amount (with White Sox)
It's an interesting development that the M's would land Lewis, as much of the chagrin over the draft tendencies of Zduriencik centered around his continued insistence on getting right-handed power. Indeed, Lewis marks the fourth straight 1st round pick by Seattle that fits that mold.
On the flip side, the Mariners currently have two home grown 3rd round picks (Kyle Seager and Edwin Diaz) and a 4th round pick (James Paxton) on their 25-man roster making contributions at the big league level, and McNamara has done well in the mid- to late-rounds of the Draft for the Mariners.
As Ryan Divish highlighted in his Draft Preview piece yesterday, McNamara – a holdover from the Jack Zduriencik regime – recognizes differences in focus between this front office and the former front office. “There’s definitely more resources. More balancing information, more common sense, more experienced evaluators,” he said. “We have ex-players that have come on the pro side that are out seeing players; we have some of our player-development instructors, some of our catching guys out seeing catchers. There’s a lot more emphasis on risk statistics, so it’s been an education, but it feels good. We feel like we are doing everything humanly possible to make the best decisions for this organization.”
Whether or not those differences produce more success with draftees will take a while to play out, of course. But the selection of Lewis here to open the 2016 Draft for the club unquestionably adds another top prospect into what has become a light system in terms of overall talent. Some scouting reports out there question the competition level that Lewis has encountered thus far, playing in a small conference. They also question if there will be too many strikeouts in Lewis' game, but he did walk 66 times and strike out 48 in his final college season. And as he mentioned in his post-selection interview, he fancies himself to be like his baseball idol, former Mariners outfielder Adam Jones.
The quick scouting report grades him out with at least plus power, probably plus-plus raw, a plus throwing arm with good speed once underway and good athleticism to go with it all. Already 210 pounds, he figures to mature into a corner outfielder, and if his hands quiet down in his swing and the development goes as planned, the strikeouts should go down and the power should play more consistently.
SeattleClubhouse will have more on Lewis and more on the rest of the Mariners’ 2016 Draft as it unfolds in the coming days.
Looking for more Mariners news, articles and player interviews? Want to keep up with which prospects are hot and cold for the M's? "Like" SeattleClubhouse on Facebook and follow SeattleClubhouse site Editor Rick Randall on Twitter at @randallball.